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Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs, H.E. Urmas Paet at the 25th Human Rights Council

4. March 2014 - 13:01

Mr. President,

Dear colleagues,

Your Excellencies,

The situation in Ukraine is critical. The Crimean peninsula has been invaded by Russian troops and aggressions regrettably taking place. Military action in Crimea is a serious threat to European peace and security. The events in Ukraine have rapidly escalated and the current state of the affairs can be described as the most serious crisis in Europe in recent years.

Russia must stop its military actions and withdraw its armed forces to the places of their permanent dislocation. Sending troops to a foreign soil with invented excuse to allegedly protect its citizens is not the way to protect anybody. This military action which is a clear violation of international law also worsens Ukrainian internal situation. Ukraine does not need this. Russian citizens in Crimea do not need this. Russian federation does not need this. There is no real threat to the Russian minority in Ukraine – this pretext used by Russia has no ground.

Ukraine and all the Ukrainian people irrespective of the ethnicity, religious beliefs or worldview, urgently need a return to peace and stability. This is to be achieved through dialogue and reforms. Ukrainian population has stood up for a better life and against the corruption that hinders the return to democracy and the rule of law. The society in Ukraine is in crises and alarmed – many have sacrificed their lives. Interference by foreign force does not resolve the situation.

Ukraine needs international support. European Union, United States of America, NATO, United Nations, OSCE and Council of Europe have resolutely condemned the steps taken by Russia. But we as the international community must use every tool at our disposal to help Ukraine.

What are the concrete steps that we can take right now?

First and foremost we need to find every way to reverse the process of deepening tensions. De-escalation of the conflict is the most urgent task that lies ahead of us. The international community must immediately send observers and appoint a mediator, who should be present at all times and facilitate dialogue between Ukraine and Russia. It is important for Ukraine to go ahead with constitutional reform and create conditions for early elections in Ukraine. The social and economic conditions in Ukraine are really bad. To help the consolidation of the fragmented and broken society there is urgent need also for financial support. Therefore a financial package to help Ukraine must be agreed upon as soon as possible.

Dear colleagues,

Openness and accessibility is the way forward. Governments responsible for silencing the voices of their own citizens must understand that sustainable solutions for the future can be built only through free speech. Therefore, the repressions against independent media and civil society activists in Belarus are headed for a dead end. Turning your back to the free world and isolating is not the means to improve living standards.

It is not news that today’s world is digital to a great extent. Freedom of expression online is as important as offline. Estonia would like to thank the president and secretariat of the Human Rights Council for ensuring the live broadcasting of the Universal Periodic Reviews.

This year Estonia has the honour to be the chairman of the Freedom Online Coalition, an intergovernmental coalition that was founded in order to advance Internet freedom. Estonia will host the 4th annual conference of the Freedom Online Coalition from April 28 to 29, 2014 in Tallinn.. The best ways to protect human rights online have to be found. Internet plays important part also in the turmoil of Ukrainian events. Ladies and gentlemen,

The strength of a society lies in the coherence of different groups. A more prosperous future can be built when children play and learn in a peaceful environment. When they have no reason to fear tomorrow, when their values can develop without perversion. We support strengthening international legal framework against child abuse in armed conflicts. As the Ambassador of the White Ribbon, I will do everything in my power to stop violence against women and girls. Innocent civilians often constitute the majority of victims in armed conflicts and women are particularly vulnerable. Women and girls must have equal access to resources and opportunities – they have every right to find decent work, they must have access to health and education, energy, water and sanitation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Knowing very clearly how deep and tragic the wounds of such grave crimes can be, let us prove that we have the wisdom to learn from the past. Estonia currently holds the post of president of the Assembly of States Parties of the International Criminal Court. We are doing everything at our disposal in order to support the ICC in implementing its mandate in a most efficient way. Steps taken by the ICC are not directed against particular nations or states, but against the criminals responsible for atrocities. Only universal ratification of the Rome Statute can ensure accountability for grave crimes. International justice must be clear and timely. Unfortunately, national investigations and prosecutions often fail when there is an urgent need for justice to prevail. This makes the role and efficiency of the ICC even more prominent.

The Syrian authorities have committed serious atrocity crimes against their own population. The catastrophic humanitarian situation is becoming more worrisome with each passing day. The opposing sides must respect international humanitarian law and ensure free access for humanitarian agencies and NGO’s to conflict areas. Due to the Syrian civil war, a whole generation of children is being lost. Children are conscripted, sexually abused and killed. How can a government responsible for all this have any claims for justification and not bear accountability for the crimes?

Estonia has contributed more than 1.3 million euros for relieving the situation of Syrian refugees in neighbouring Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq. We are extremely concerned about the living conditions of the refugees and the fact that the conflict has negatively affected the whole region. 

Living in continuous fear is regrettably the new normality in some parts of the world. For decades, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has committed crimes against its own population. A recent UN report confirms the continuous human rights violations by North Korean authorities. The situation in North Korea deserves serious attention and further steps by the Human Rights Council. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is high time to break with the short-sighted understanding that using military action and threat bring any solutions upon which the future can be built.

This is also what Russia must understand and therefore immediately end its action in Ukraine. Russia’s actions violate principles of the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, the 1994 Budapest Memorandum and as a whole basically all international commitments that Russia has taken by becoming member of international organizations. I want to live in a world where international law is respected and human rights are protected. Otherwise we will return to Hobbesian state where every man is against every man. Nobody wants a grave future like this.

Thank You for your attention!

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